Epson's Graphics Shine in the Right Mode

SAN FRANCISCO (05/26/2000) - So you want a sub-$100 ink jet printer that produces high-quality color output? Epson America Inc.'s Stylus Color 670 can do it--if you're willing to spend more on the paper you use.

At $89, the Stylus Color 670 costs $40 less than its predecessor, the Stylus Color 660. Its speed is fine for the price; in our tests, a shipping unit printed text at 2.2 pages per minute and graphics at a reasonably speedy 0.8 ppm. Like other inexpensive printers, however, its print quality on standard paper fell short. Text is black and readable, but the edges smudge; meanwhile, gray-scale images are grainy and dotted, and colors look slightly faded. But the Stylus Color 670's output quality improves dramatically when you arrange for it to run in its enhanced photo mode and you print your work on expensive ink jet paper. Then, images preserve detail beautifully with smooth transitions, rich color, and sharp contrasts.

The Stylus Color 670 is small, and its output tray folds up in front of the feeder to create an even more compact unit (but if you forget to pull the tray down before you print, the printed sheets will rip). A four-page illustrated guide clearly outlines how to install the drivers and ink cartridges. Although the uncluttered control panel contains only three buttons, I found the instructions (printed on the lid) for changing ink cartridges confusing.

The $89 Lexmark Z11 Color Jetprinter prints text every bit as speedily as the Stylus Color 670 does, and the $99 Canon BJC-2000 prints text noticeably faster (at 3.1 ppm); both, however, generate graphics at a tortoiselike 0.4 ppm, half as fast as the Epson. But while the other printers produce better-looking text, the Stylus Color 670 is a better choice for graphics and color images, especially in photo mode.

Epson Stylus Color 670 prints nicer photos than its sub-$100 peers.

Stylus Color 670

Pro: Inexpensive; prints graphics relatively swiftly.

Con: Mediocre output quality without special ink jet paper.

Value: Good inexpensive printer for home-oriented tasks.

Street price: $89